Audubon print and Reginald Scot book soared at Bonhams Skinner

Elephant folio print of the Baltimore Oriole from John James Audubon’s the ‘Birds of America,’ $6,250. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

Elephant folio print of the Baltimore Oriole from John James Audubon’s ‘Birds of America,’ $6,250. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – Bonhams Skinner saw exceptional results at its recent Books & Manuscripts online sale, which concluded on August 23. Ninety percent of the lots were sold, with a 100 percent sold-by-value rate. More than a third of the lots sold above their high estimates, some by a large margin.

“Bidders from all over competed vigorously for many categories of material,” said Director of Books & Manuscripts John Dorfman. “We were particularly excited to see the enthusiasm for personal, archival material such as a collection of letters from Princess Grace of Monaco, a business correspondence from T. S. Eliot, a group of photographs from Nikola Tesla’s laboratory and a fresh-to-the-market journal kept by a 17-year-old boy on a Massachusetts whaling voyage in the 1850s.”

Reginald Scot, ‘The Discoverie of Witchcraft,’ $68,750. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

Reginald Scot, ‘The Discoverie of Witchcraft,’ $68,750. Courtesy Bonhams Skinner

Leading the auction results was Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft from 1584, which sold for $68,750 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000. This book aimed to debunk myths about witchcraft, magic and other superstitions, and it also exposed some of the secret methods used by stage illusionists. This book was widely read in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and is thought to be a source for the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the mock trial of King Lear and the hobgoblin character in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

John Webster, ‘The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft,’ $4,375. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

John Webster, ‘The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft,’ $4,375. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

Witchcraft and the occult were themes in a few of the lots offered. John Webster’s The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft from 1677 sold for $4,375, more than seven times its high estimate. Webster was a cleric and physician who, like Scot, was a skeptic on the subject of witchcraft. He argued that witchcraft accusations grow out of delusions due to “melancholy and fancy” and asserted in this book that the claim that witches make a “corporeal league” with the Devil and “are turned into cats, dogs, raise tempests, or the like, is utterly denied and disproved.”

Margery Williams, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit,’ $8,125. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner


Margery Williams, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit,’ $8,125. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

As usual, there was strong interest in John James Audubon’s bird illustrations, in both book and print form. The seven-volume first edition of Birds of America, from 1840, reached $37,500, while an elephant folio print of the Baltimore Oriole whistled its way to $6,250, more than 12 times the high estimate. Standing out among the modern works was a first edition of the childhood favorite and cult classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, which sold for an impressive $8,125. This 1922 edition included seven charming color illustrations and rabbit-pattern endpapers by William Nicholson.

Frederick Douglass, ‘My Bondage and My Freedom,’ $7,500. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner


Frederick Douglass, ‘My Bondage and My Freedom,’ $7,500. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

My Bondage and My Freedom, by American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, also sold well, bringing $7,500. This influential book included powerful arguments for the abolition of slavery and also underscored the importance of education and literacy in achieving that goal. As Douglass himself wrote, “Knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom.”

Archive of handwritten letters from Princess Grace of Monaco, $27,500. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

Collection of handwritten letters from Princess Grace of Monaco, $27,500. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

Documents and letters also fared well at auction, including the highly anticipated lot of Princess Grace of Monaco handwritten letters, which sold for $27,500, far beyond its estimate of $3,500-$5,000. This group of personal documents, addressed to Grace Kelly’s dear friend Marguerite “Margie” Pinney, provided a look into the daily life of the American icon and includes 20 autograph letters, three postcards, around 30 pieces of formal correspondence, an invitation to Grace’s wedding to Prince Rainier, an invitation to a gala performance of the Opera of Monte-Carlo and five casual photographs. The letters to Margie included many personal disclosures about Grace’s children, motherhood, the demands of her royal duties, pleasure activities, aging and memories of the Philadelphia area, where they both grew up. In one letter regarding her experience in filming A Look at Monaco, she hinted at competition between her and Jackie Kennedy.

Lot of Samuel F.B. Morse material containing a Morse-signed letter, $10,000. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

Samuel F.B. Morse-signed letter, $10,000. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

A signed letter from Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph and Morse Code, sold for $10,000. The lot included Morse’s letter discussing contract negotiations, a sheet containing “Morse’s Telegraphic Alphabet” (Morse code) and a four-page brochure announcing the design (by sculptor Horatio Stone) of the National Telegraph Memorial Monument, in honor of Morse.

Highlighted lots from Massachusetts included:

Great Molasses Flood of Boston legal document, $3,125. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

Great Molasses Flood of Boston legal document, $3,125. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

The Great Molasses Flood of Boston legal document, which earned $3,125. This 203-page document included information on an important court case in relation to the 1919 molasses flood in Boston, with eyewitness accounts of the accident.

Massachusetts whaling ship logbook, $5,938. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

Massachusetts whaling ship logbook, $5,938. Image courtesy of Bonhams Skinner

A Massachusetts whaling ship logbook from 1856-58, which realized $5,938 and included accounts from 17-year-old Albert Ring and his experience on a whaling ship, which he joined on a whim. The logbook described the voyage in great detail, including specifics of life on the ship; the hunting, killing, and processing of whales; and the cultures of some of the Pacific islands visited. Its final pages included financial accounts, names and addresses of crew members, songs, poems and drawings.

 

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